Board index Noah's Ark & the Flood

The Flood and carbon dating

Postby Mercurial » Tue May 29, 2018 5:02 pm

An argument against the global Flood and how it relates to carbon dating.

I've heard some Christians say things such as "Well the global flood messed up the accuracy of carbon dating so we can't know the true age of anything!" when it comes to things such as ancient monuments and cave paintings. But I'm not sure how much I buy this. If the flood actually did happen and these artifacts were made BEFORE the flood then there is no way they would have survived it. I sincerely doubt God would have let ancient temples dedicated to other religions stay on Earth and cave paintings would have just washed away. But if these things were made AFTER the flood then the argument that the flood messed up the dating process would be irrelevant and they should all have a date that suggested that they were made post-flood (estimating that the flood was around 2370 BC) ...but they all don't. Some of them have dates that were hundreds if not thousands of years before that. If you take all this into consideration could it be safe to say that the flood actually did not happen?
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Re: The Flood and carbon dating

Postby jimwalton » Tue May 29, 2018 5:10 pm

> I've heard some Christians say things such as "Well the global flood messed up the accuracy of carbon dating so we can't know the true age of anything!"

Yeah, I don't buy this argument, either.

> (estimating that the flood was around 2370 BC)

This is an argument I do not buy, however. It's pretty tough to date the flood (Dr. John Walton says 10,000 BC at the latest; Francis Schaeffer says probably before 20,000), but it surely was not in the 3rd millennium. Surely not.

> If you take all this into consideration could it be safe to say that the flood actually did not happen?

Therefore it is NOT safe to say that the flood did not actually happen. We can say with quite a bit of certainty that it didn't happen in 2370, but you haven't given any reason to conclude it didn't happen at all.

Nor do I believe that the flood was global (also implying that it actually historically happened), but instead massively local.
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Re: The Flood and carbon dating

Postby Cajon » Tue Jun 05, 2018 3:17 pm

"I (God) am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish." - Genesis 6:17

It does make sense that it was a local flood, but that destroys the entire point of the biblical flood. If the flood is meant to kill sinful humans, then hitting only a local area is useless. But in real life, with the biblical flood having high resemblance to the Epic of Gilgamesh and Atrahasis epic. It seems the flood story is only an exaggerated flood event that happened in the Mesopotamian basin.
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Re: The Flood and carbon dating

Postby jimwalton » Mon Jun 25, 2018 3:47 pm

What does "all" mean? In Gn. 41.57 (same book, same author), we read that "all the countries came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph because the famine was severe in all the world." Was Brazil experiencing famine? Did the Australians come to Joseph? No. "All" means the countries of the immediate vicinity in the ancient Near East.

Also, Deut. 2.25 (same author): "I will put the...fear of you on all the nations under heaven." Did that include the Mayans? The people of Madagascar? I don't think anyone would argue that this refers to more than the nations of Canaan, and perhaps a few others.

There are plenty of other references like this throughout the Bible (Acts 17.6; 19.35; 24.5; Rom. 1.8). We have to give serious consideration that quite possibly "all" doesn't mean "global".

Also, the flood didn't have to be global to accomplish God's purposes. God was dealing with Canaan and the surrounding neighbors. God was dealing with Noah's context. A flood in South America would be totally inexplicable to the people there, as well as patently unfair (which the Bible teaches that God is not). Noah was a preacher of righteousness, but not to the people of Africa, China, Australia, and the Americas. The language of the Noah story is normal for Scripture, describing everyday matters from the narrator's vantage point and within the customary frame of reference of his readers.

But what about "covering the mountains"? Again, a little detective work (rather than superficial reading) can be of value. First of all, the high mountains were not generally considered mountains, but pillars holding up the firmament. When they talk about mountains, they are referring to the local geological shapes, not the Alps and Himalayas. And what does "cover" mean? The Hebrew root is *ksh*, and is used in a wide variety of nuances:

- A people so vast they "cover" the land (Num. 22.11)
- Weeds "cover" the land (Prov. 24.31)
- clothing (1 Ki. 1.1)
- Overshadowed (2 Chr. 5.8; Ps. 147.8)

In Job 38.34; Jer. 46.8; Mal. 2.13, "covered" is figurative. If Gn. 7.19 is read in the same way, it suggests that the mountains were drenched with water or coursing with flash floods, but it doesn't demand they were submerged.

What about "15 cubits above" (Gn. 7.20)? The Hebrew reads "15 cubits *from above* (*milme'la*) rose the waters, and the mountains were covered." It is therefore not at all clear that it is suggesting the waters rose 15 cubits higher than the mountains. It can mean "above"; it can mean "upward" or “upstream". If this were the case in Genesis, it would suggest that the water reached 15 cubits upward from the plain, covering at least some part of the mountains.

What about all the animals dying? Again, we have to define "all", but based on what I previously said, it could easily refer to "all" the ones within the scope of the flood, not necessarily global destruction. Again, look at Gn. 2.13, where the river "winds through all (same word as Gn. 7.21) the land of Cush." Does it mean every square inch of it? Was the whole land of Cush one big river? Not likely.

Genesis 7.22 says, "Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died." I know this could have been expressed in multiple ways, but I don't fault the writer to choosing what he did. "All" not only denotes the scope of the physical flood for the intended population, but it can also connote the completeness of the judgment. If he had said something like "as far as the eye could see" it might be assumed that the judgment was less than accomplished. That wording would have been less adequate for the situation, in my opinion. The point was to express the completeness of the judgment on the target audience, and "all" expresses that, though it obviously leads to other misunderstandings as well. We do have to entertain the thought that the ancients understood quite well the intent of the text, but through the millennia it got lost in "Enlightenment literalism", and we are the victims of the misunderstanding. It's time to get back to seeing the event through ancient eyes.

Besides, we have to look at a few other things.

1. A global flood is totally out of character with all of God's other miracles in the Bible. It's not His m.o.. It's not the way he does things, and it doesn't fit His pattern of working. God's miracles through the Bible are generally singular in nature: one thing happens to create the miracle. For the flood to have been global, a list of about 50 miracles had to have happened, and while Christians would say, "Well, God could have done it that way" (which is true), it's not the way he usually works and we have reason to look for a different understanding of the flood.

2. A global flood is unjust, and God is not unjust. To destroy all human life in the Americas, the Far East, and the southern tip of Africa is patently unjust, given that the flood would have taken them by surprise with no explanation about its occurrence. There's nothing fair about it, but God is fair (according to the revelation of Scripture). What makes more sense, biblically, is that Noah was a preacher of righteousness to the people groups in his larger vicinity, and their lack of response brought on a destructive flood in the area where their lack of response to God was intentional. That's the grounds of true justice, and most likely the better understanding of the flood. What fits the Biblical description of God is that God judged the people who were worthy of judgment, who had been warned, and who had adequate opportunities to change their ways. A global flood doesn't fit this picture.

> But in real life, with the biblical flood having high resemblance to the Epic of Gilgamesh and Atrahasis epic.

In these accounts the chief god, Enlil, becomes angry at humankind (the Atrahasis Epic portrays him as disturbed over the "noise" of humankind) and, after trying unsuccessfully to remedy the situation by reducing the population through things like drought and disease, persuades the divine assembly to approve a flood for the total elimination of mankind. The god Ea manages to forewarn one loyal worshipper, a king who is instructed to build a boat that will preserve not only him and his family, but representatives skilled in the various arts of civilization. The other people of the city are told that the gods are angry with the king and he must leave them. The pitch-covered boat has seven stories shaped either as a cube or, more likely, a ziggurat. The storm lasts seven days and nights after which the boat comes to rest on Mt. Nisir. Birds are sent out to determine the time of leaving the ark. Sacrifices are made for which the gods are very thankful since they have been deprived of food (sacrifices) since the flood began.

While there are a few similarities between the biblical flood and the Gilgamesh Epic & Atrahasis, the differences are significant.The biblical flood is written with a strong moral motivation, while Gilgamesh & Atrahasis fail to suggest even a plausible cause. I can't agree that there is "high resemblance." It seems, however, that the accounts may refer to the same event with different theological worldviews, giving credibility to the truth of the event itself.

> It seems the flood story is only an exaggerated flood event that happened in the Mesopotamian basin.

There's no particular warrant to consider it either fictional or exaggerated. We know that natural catastrophes occur, and sometimes with devastating power. And I would guess when it happened it was quite a bit larger than just the Mesopotamian basin.


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